Christopher Aston, PhD

Roles and Responsibilities

As the Director of the Biological Safety Program and Chief Biological Safety Officer, Chris is responsible for providing professional leadership, administrative oversight and for directing biological safety operations, services and programs on all campuses. Chris joined Columbia EH&S in December 2011 and serves on several University committees including the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). He is the Responsible Official for the Select Agents Program. Other areas of expertise include performing biological risk assessments, BSL-3 facility operations, laboratory design, medical surveillance, biological exposure investigations, regulated medical waste, and biological material procurement and shipping. He is active in the broader community of Biosafety Professionals through participation in the American (ABSA) and Mid-Atlantic (MABSA) Biological Safety Associations. EH&S Print & Go sheets for medical surveillance received a CSHEMA innovation award of merit in 2018. Digital lobby signage to promote biosafety best practices received ABSA recognition in 2022.


Growing up in the United Kingdom, Chris was interested from an early age in infectious diseases and the germs that cause them. He received his bachelor’s degree in immunobiology from the University of Wales and his D.Phil. (Ph.D.) from the University of Oxford in molecular and cellular biology, during which time he spent two years as an exchange student at the Rockefeller University. Prior to becoming a safety professional, he was a Principal Investigator at NYU Medical Center, and then at NYU Department of Chemistry. He led a transcriptional profiling team at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Research in Princeton, and was a CLEP and ELAP-accredited lab director at the New York City Department of Health’s Biothreat Response Laboratory. Prior to joining Columbia, he held a biosafety position at Weill Cornell Medical College.